U.S. COVID daily death toll tops 4,000; Fauci says ‘things will get worse’ in January

2020 becomes deadliest year in U.S. history, CDC finds

For the third time this week, the U.S. has surpassed its previous record in the coronavirus’ daily death toll, and the nation’s top infectious disease expert is predicting the COVID pandemic will worsen in January.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, the U.S. on Thursday recorded 4,033 deaths, topping Wednesday’s then-record of almost 3,900. Also Thursday, the U.S. reported 1.9 million COVID tests, 266,000 cases and more than 132,000 coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and the man who will be President-elect Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told NPR the numbers will worsen through January due to the holiday travel season.

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“As we get into the next couple of weeks in January, that likely will be a reflection of the holiday season travel and the congregate settings that usually take place socially during that period of time,” Fauci said. “We’ve seen following most events that require travel and ... have people, you know, understandably getting together in a social setting. So we believe things will get worse as we get into January.”

The virus is surging in several states, with California hit particularly hard, reporting on Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths. Skyrocketing caseloads there are threatening to force hospitals to ration care and essentially decide who lives and who dies.

In California, health authorities Thursday reported 583 new deaths, a day after 459 people died. The overall death toll there stands at more than 28,000. The state also registered more than a quarter-million new weekly cases, and only Arizona tops California in cases per resident. Florida broke its record for the highest single-day number of cases with more than 19,800, while its death toll reached 22,400.

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, and nearly two dozen other counties have essentially run out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.

“This is a health crisis of epic proportions,” said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for Los Angeles County.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have gotten their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine climbed to at least 5.9 million Thursday, a one-day gain of about 600,000, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions will need to be vaccinated to stop the coronavirus.

As of Friday morning, Johns Hopkins University was reporting 21.5 million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began and a national overall death toll of more than 365,000. The U.S. continues to lead the world in overall cases and deaths. Globally, more than 1.9 million have died from the pandemic.

A new, more contagious variant has also begun spreading around the globe and in the U.S.

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